Who needs starting pitching when you’ve got payroll flexibility?
Dear fellow and sister Rays fans, our hometown team has reportedly traded Blake Snell to the Padres for four prospects, some of whom are highly rated. You can read Marc Topkin’s write-up here ($). Some of you may wonder how the Rays intend to defend their 2020 AL pennant after having lost arguably their top two (or top two of three) starters. I can’t answer that question, friends, but you will be happy to know that the Rays have gained PAYROLL FLEXIBILITY. I’m sure you all feel better now.
I’ve always accepted their approach, watching them nontender Corey Dickerson or trade Jake Odorizzi for some coupons at the concession stand (sorry Jermaine Palacios I’m sure you are a great guy but you haven’t gotten past AA and you are 24 years old) because the idea was that they would use that payroll flexibility to spend money when the time was right.
THAT TIME IS NOW but the Rays decided that they couldn’t afford $10.5 million for a top line starting pitcher who is in his prime and still three seasons from free agency.
I know my more level-headed colleagues here will have great analysis of the prospects acquired. Hopefully at least one of these prospects will turn out to be a high impact major leaguer and we will be able to tell ourselves this was not just a salary dump.
Let’s just say it takes character to be a Rays fan. Character and perhaps a touch of masochism.
I wrote the rest of this column Sunday afternoon, before the trade news, and I’ll just leave it as is.
A current Ray (Austin Meadows) and a former Ray (Tommy Pham) are on this list of 2021 hitters likely to bounce back from disappointing 2020 seasons ($)
You didn’t think we were done dissecting Kevin Cash’s game 6 World Series pitching change decision, did you? For some reason a reporter asked Max Scherzer for his opinion, and while Scherzer looks like guy who would punch his manager before leaving a game in that situation, his response is quite measured.
An uplifting message from outfielder Brett Phillips:
If only this little @RaysBaseball fan on the left knew he’d be playing for his hometown team 22 years later in the World Series... Your dreams are achievable, let me be the first to encourage you! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! pic.twitter.com/PMZPLzF8bz— Maverick Phillips (@Brett_Phillips8) December 24, 2020
And Christmas greetings from Rays ace:
Snell isn’t just hugging teddy bears this winter, however; he is also hosting a baseball camp in his Seattle area hometown.
Super excited to be hosting an MLB level hitting camp with a league respected hitting coach, Kevin Long! Spots are limited!! Starts January 8th and 9th!https://t.co/SNcqBqgVXa— Blake Snell (@snellzilla4) December 26, 2020
He is not the only Rays player who is using the off season to work with young players; prospect Xavier Edwards is hosting a youth camp in Broward County.
The MLB Players Association marks a key milestone on the road to establishing free agency:
An important day in MLBPA history... pic.twitter.com/OHN2m2hom3— MLBPA (@MLB_PLAYERS) December 23, 2020
Mike Petriello considers 2020 standout homeruns. Some stand out because they are long, some because they really shouldn’t have left the park.
Old friend alerts: Matt Andriese has signed with the Boston Red Sox. Jacob Faria has signed a minor league deal with the Angels; his hometown newspaper has a lengthy profile of the former Rays pitcher.
I don’t know how much crossover we have between “people who follow Rays baseball” and “people fascinated by linguistics” but if that describes you, a recent Effectively Wild podcast is worth your time.
Team Tampa Bay
Finally, with the Buccaneers clinching a playoff spot this week, 2020 marks the first time that all Tampa Bay teams have made their respective postseasons in the same year. I guess our guys shine in the face of adversity? It’s a small thing, but thanks to the Lightning, Rays, Rowdies and Bucs players who have given us something to cheer about.